Page last updated at 09:48 GMT, Wednesday, 10 September 2008 10:48 UK

Global impact of bird flu

Map showing countries where cases of H5N1 bird flu have been confirmed
Confirmed H5N1 strain only
Human cases: laboratory-confirmed since Dec 2003

The lethal avian-flu virus that has affected so much of the globe continues to kill birds and humans alike.

But while the deadly H5N1 strain has hit more than 60 countries in less than five years, there are signs that the epidemic has peaked, at least for now.

Millions of birds have died or been destroyed as a result of outbreaks as far apart as northern Europe and the Far East.

And the number of cases among humans has also continued to rise since the strain emerged in South-East Asia in 2003 before spreading to Europe and Africa.

But provisional data for the first half of 2008 appear to confirm the rate is continuing to tail off after hitting a peak in the corresponding period in 2006.

By the mid-point of 2008 a total of 15 countries had suffered human cases, with Burma, Pakistan and Bangladesh added to the list since the previous autumn.

Although the number of new human cases fell in 2007 to its lowest annual total for three years, the mortality rate continued to rise, topping 60% by the end of the year - a trend that continued in the first half of 2008.

There were 37 human cases of bird flu confirmed between January and the end of June - the lowest total for the corresponding period since 2004, when the current outbreak first established itself.

The number of human deaths during that time was the lowest since 2005, as was the number of new outbreaks among birds.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN declared in an article in June 2008 that "the peak of the crisis" was over, but that the fight against the disease was not.

The 300th human case was confirmed in spring 2007 and the 200th death occurred in the September.

In June of the same year Indonesia became the first country to have 100 confirmed cases of H5N1 among humans - a figure that has continued to grow.

The first human deaths from H5N1 outside Asia, in January 2006, heightened concern about the spread of the disease, but the World Health Organization pointed out that the deaths, in Turkey, were among people who had been in close contact with infected birds, and were not passed from human to human.

And although a cluster of deaths in Indonesia that year sparked renewed fears about transmission between humans, the WHO maintained there was no evidence of sustained spread from person to person, and scientists do not believe it is mutating into a version that spreads more easily among humans.

The main concern is that each new human case increases the chances of the feared "human" mutation.


Map showing European countries where H5N1 bird flu has been found
Confirmed H5N1 strain only
Human cases: laboratory-confirmed since Dec 2003

The first outbreaks in the European Union were recorded in January 2006 when cases were confirmed in wild swans in Italy, Greece, Germany and Austria.

Within weeks, cases were confirmed in Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, and France, where mass vaccination of ducks and geese on farms was carried out.

At the end of February, the first case involving a cat in Europe was discovered on the German island where a number of wild birds died from the disease earlier in the month.

And in mid-March, human deaths were confirmed in Azerbaijan, where what is believed to be the first canine case was also diagnosed, in a stray dog.

The first case in the UK was confirmed on 6 April, 2006, in a swan found dead on the eastern coast of Scotland.


10 September 2008

Country Cases Deaths
Azerbaijan 8 5
Bangladesh 1 0
Burma 1 0
Cambodia 7 7
China 30 20
Djibouti 1 0
Egypt 50 22
Indonesia 137 112
Iraq 3 2
Laos 2 2
Nigeria 1 1
Pakistan 3 1
Thailand 25 17
Turkey 12 4
Vietnam 106 52
Total 387 245

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